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The end of the world? Not quite yet

By CNN Staff
updated 10:15 PM EST, Fri December 21, 2012
The Mayan civilization measures time in cycles called
The Mayan civilization measures time in cycles called "baktuns" of 394 years each. Friday marked the end of the 13th baktun.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Pointing to the Mayan calendar, some said life would end on the winter solstice
  • Yet Friday came and went for billions worldwide, without any epic calamity
  • Some Mayans say the day marks the end of one era and the start of a new one

(CNN) -- It's the end of the world as we know it.

And yet the world feels fine.

Friday was supposed to be the day life on Earth ceased to exist. The predicted apocalypse -- which spawned a disaster movie "2012," a TV show tracking "Doomsday Preppers" taking extraordinary measures for the end-of-a-lifetime event and numerous jokes on social media and elsewhere -- stemmed from the end of an important phase of the ancient Mayan calendar.

Founded around 2000 B.C. and still active, though its numbers and influence have waned significantly over the past several hundred years, the Mayan civilization measures time in cycles called "baktuns" of 394 years each. The winter solstice that occurred Friday marks the end of the 13th baktun.

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"It will happen!" a CNN.com commenter using the handle Robert Lawless predicted cheekily. "All credible Mayan historians will agree, the Mayans predicted the World would end the same year Twinkies went extinct! HOW DID THEY KNOW????"

Some took the possibility of the day of reckoning much more seriously. Ryan Croft in Asheville, North Carolina, for instance, said he was teaching his family how to subsist on alternative sources of nourishment like algae, roasted mice and earthworms, as well as making a one-of-a-kind assault rifle -- a hybrid between an AR-15 and AK-47 -- to deal with signs of doom lurking around the corner.

"I taught about economic collapse and how it actually looks on the ground," Croft told CNN affiliate WHNS, noting he wasn't expecting the world's total obliteration but rather a more gradual slide into chaos. "People want to act like it can't happen or doesn't happen, and it happens around the world. There are places on fire right now."

But not even modern-day Mayans bought into the coming apocalypse. They view the calendar as portending the end of one era and heralding the start of a new one, not the death of all the world's species.

"It's an era. We are lucky to see how it ends," said wood carver Santos Esteban in Yaxuna, Mexico, a sleepy village of fewer than 700 Mayans.
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True to Esteban's less-than-dire prediction, Friday came and went in countless locales around the world -- from Sydney to Stockholm, from Kathmandu to Capetown -- without any epic calamity.

That's not to say Judgment Day isn't coming, and possibly soon. Some who study the Mayan calendar say the date for the end of the period is not Friday, but Sunday. And numerous groups, through the years and all around the world, have prophesied the end of the world on specific days.

They've all been wrong -- so far.

CNN's Greg Botelho, Nick Parker and Ben Brumfield contributed to this report.

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